Marriage is the tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and a sacred union in Islam . Islamic culture tries very hard to safeguard the family and its stability. In the first place, it tells us that we should be very careful when we want to choose our mate. It also gives us a clue as to what characteristics and traits we should be looking for in a spouse .
Secondly, Islamic culture teaches us that an atmosphere of love, cooperation, and forgiveness should reign over every Muslim family, so much so as the Prophet of Islam said, “The best of you are the best-tempered ones with their family.”  Tolerance and compromise is the one vital element of any lasting relationship.
But, no matter what, it doesn’t always keep that way; there are cases in which both sides lose their sense of compromise. One may argue that divorce is not considered lawful according to many Christian views. Nevertheless, its practice by many Christians today shows its irresistibility!
In such cases, the only way to avoid a split is to refer to authority. There should be one person in every group who holds the authority over the group when a dangerous confusion and conflict shows up. But that one person had better keep silent, compromise, and go along with others’ decisions in other than those rare occasions!
In the first step, the husband is that authority in the family, maybe because he is the one who has to provide for the family.
"… The wives have rights similar to the obligations upon them, in accordance with honorable norms; and men have a degree above them, and Allah is all-mighty and all-wise." (Quran, 2:228)
Of course, there is not a tiny difference between man and woman in Islam in the eyes of God; no matter what the gender, the more pious has a higher degree before Him. But as they form a group, an authority is irresistible. Just as we say that there is no difference whatsoever between the president of a country and a simple worker in the eyes of God. Still, the worker should submit to that authority to prevent confusion!
The very verse suggests that it’s not like, men have more rights in the family while women got more duties and responsibilities. No, a wife has as many rights as she has obligations. It also suggests that the husband must treat his wife honorably and respectfully.
If things get worse and this approach doesn't work anymore, we should move on to the next step; that is, a higher authority!
"If you fear a split between the two of them, then appoint an arbiter from his relatives and an arbiter from her relatives. If they desire reconcilement, Allah shall reconcile them. Indeed Allah is all-knowing, all-aware." (Quran, 4:35)
This is actually a very tender council since the two elders are closely related to the spouses and try their best to come up with the best possible solutions for them. The couple, too, are willing to conform to their decision. Going to a marriage guidance counselor is an updated version of or an alternative to this council!
The council might conclude that a divorce is the only possible way for the couple to solve their problem. Sometimes, it’s simply impossible for the couple to go on!
Yes, Islam allows divorce and remarriage, but, as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) said:
“There is nothing loved by God more than a construction built in Islam by marriage, and there is nothing loathed by God more than a house which is destructed in Islam by separation.” 
It is also narrated that:
“A divorce shakes the throne [of God],”  and “God has not allowed for anything loathed by Him more than divorce!” 
If we think badly of divorce in Islam, it will become our last gasp. But if we do not have a negative outlook on it, separation would be the first thing that comes to the mind at the time of difficulty; “Why should I take all this when I can easily get rid of it?!”
But a mature and broad view suggests that the fruits of that relationship are worth bearing those unpleasant events. Separation is, therefore, inevitably lawful and at the same time very much abhorred in Islamic teachings:
"Consort with them [your wives] in an honorable manner; and should you dislike them, maybe you dislike something while Allah invests it with an abundant good." (Quran, 4:19)
Now, when it comes to separation and divorce in Islam, each side might think that “I got nothing to do with her or him anymore, and so, I can get my revenge on them!”
Of course, many Muslim scholars hold that every woman can state in her marriage contract that she, too, has the right to get a divorce, either generally or under certain circumstances. But, since Islam has basically put the husband in charge of divorce, the Quran commands men over and over that they should honor women, especially when it comes to divorce; if the union is not possible, you must at least have an honorable separation!
These commandments are even in some cases followed by divine threats for those who ignore them:
"When you divorce women and they complete their term [of waiting], then either retain them honorably or release them honorably,…" (Quran, 2:231)
"For the divorced women, there shall be a provision, in accordance with honorable norms—an obligation on the Godwary." (Quran, 2:241)
"If you desire to take a wife in place of another, and you have given one of them a quintal [of gold], do not take anything away from it. Would you take it by way of calumny and flagrant sin?!" (Quran, 4:20)
"… and should they be pregnant, maintain them until they deliver. Then, if they suckle [the baby] for you, give them their wages and consult together honorably." (Quran, 65:6)
And finally, God comforts both sides by saying that, if a divorce is the only way for them and going on with their marriage is much more harmful to both sides than profitable, they shouldn’t worry about its financial consequences:
"But if they separate, Allah will suffice each of them out of His bounty, and Allah is all-bounteous, all-wise." (Quran, 4:130)
The Chapter of “Divorce” in the Quran is also full of merciful verses, which are meant to soothe both parties which are hurt by the inevitable separation.
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 20, p. 15, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, vol. 2, p. 22
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 20, p. 49, 50, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, vol. 2, p. 37,38
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 20, p. 171, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, vol. 2. p, 47
- Wasa’il al-Shi’a, vol. 20, p. 16
- Makarim al-Akhlaq, p. 197
- Al-Kafi, vol. 11, p. 464, Sunan Abi Dawud, vol. 2, p. 254
Issues concerning freedom may arouse a special sense of curiosity; they always look appealing and interesting to people. Perhaps it is because freedom has been human beings’ ideal throughout history. Everyone is so interested in the freedom that they have tried to achieve it through any available means. However, freedom is a broad concept with many aspects that are related to all areas of our lives. This essay will refer to one of its effective and fruitful aspects, which is freedom in marriage.
The first step in forming a family is choosing a spouse. Now let’s see Islam's point of view toward freedom of choice in marriage:
"A marriage is not correct and valid unless through freedom of choice."
Such a condition for marriage at the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was very strange and caused fright and anger among people since it was in complete contrast with their core beliefs; at that time women were given a very low rank compared with men, and they were considered inferior to them.
To clarify the Islamic model of a free marriage, here are two stories from that time:
A frightened girl came to the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) and while she could hardly breathe, said to him: “…oh, why is my father like this?”
“What has he done?” said the Prophet (PBUH&HP).
“He wants me to marry his nephew without asking my idea about him. I do not love him and how can I marry a person whom I do not love?” said the girl.
“If you do not love him forget about him and marry the one whom you love.” said the Prophet (PBUH&HP) calmly.
The girl was pleased after hearing the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) words. She said then, “actually, I love him very much and I would not choose anyone else as my future husband instead of him. But since my father did not ask my opinion, I intentionally came here to know your idea. Now that I know what you think, I will tell all the girls that their fathers do not have the right to choose their husbands.”
This woman is one of the thousands who made our history, those poor people who lived in the darkness of ignorance. The story mentioned above is a sample of the situation of women in the era of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had one child named "Fatimah Zahra" (AS). She was so dear to the Prophet (PBUH), and everyone knew that. There were some great men who wished to marry her. One of them was Imam Ali (AS), the first successor of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and the leader (Imam) of Muslims.
When he went to the Prophet (PBUH&HP) and asked for his beloved daughter’s hand, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) said that some others came to him for this reason too, and he shared their requests with his daughter, but she respectfully rejected their marriage proposals. “Now, I will deliver your proposal to her,” said our dear Prophet (PBUH&HP). Then, the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) informed his beloved daughter about Ali’s (AS) proposal, but this time and unlike her reply to previous proposals, she remained silent as a sign of satisfaction. So the Prophet (PBUH&HP) went to Ali happily and congratulated him on the good news.
The last-mentioned story is a very good example of portraying Islam's approach towards marriage and the importance of freedom in it, regarding the lifestyle of our holy leaders.
Family planning in Islam is one of the recent issues that includes its own rules and regulations. The issue of family planning is usually observed from two dimensions; population control which is the political aspect, and birth control which is based on the decision of the family (husband and wife).
The political aspects differ from country to country, based on the decisions made by the government of each region. Depending on social and political conditions, the government may encourage people to have more children or to limit their family to one or two children. However, this aspect is not the issue in this article; rather we would focus on the Islamic view about family planning and birth control, based on the couples’ decisions.
At the same time that many traditional families or the older adults in families encourage young couples to have more children, we keep hearing from some young couples that it is not logical to have many children in this era for different social reasons.
The issue of family planning became significant when the lifestyle of people changed. After the modernization of the world and changing the lifestyle from rural life to urban lifestyle, everything was affected.
Children who used to be a workforce in rural lifestyle became sole consumers in the urban family for many years, until they became independent. Therefore, parents needed to have reasonable plans to provide for their children who were to be consumers for years.
Based on their situations and goals, and their experiences from their childhood, people have different reasons for having fewer children. Reasons like:
We cannot afford the cost of living for more than one or two children.
We have to work hard, and we cannot spend enough time to raise and treat children.
There is not enough wealth on the earth for future generations.
Children may be an obstacle on our way to success and may deprive us of reaching our goals.
This world has become a cruel place, and it is not fair to bring any more humans to this brutal world.
And many other reasons that convince some couples not to have children, or have only one or two kids.
Now, let’s see what the Islamic viewpoint is about human reproduction and birth control.
There are no specific verses in the Holy Quran to cover the issue of family planning in Islam. However, there are a few verses that some jurists use to justify their agreement or disagreement with the issue of family planning in Islam. For example: “Do not kill your children for fear of penury: We will provide for them and for you. Killing them is indeed a great iniquity.” (17:31)
The above verse not only shows that the issue of providing for children has always been an issue for parents, but it also shows how God understands human beings, and how beautiful He tries to assure them that the aliment of every creature is provided by Him. These are the things that we usually forget. We forget that it is Him who has been nurturing us from the very beginning. So being worried about other creatures’ aliment is not a good reason to prevent us from having children.
Another point in considering family planning in Islam is that it's not correct to have fewer children, fearing from poverty and being unable to afford for their costs as “There is no animal on the earth, but that its sustenance lies with Allah, and He knows its [enduring] abode and its temporary place of lodging. ….” (11:6)
Besides, having children is such a sweet blessing from God that he warns us not to get so much engaged with these gifts, in a way that they distract us from remembering God and our mission of life: “O you who have faith! Do not let your possessions and children distract you from the remembrance of Allah, and whoever does that—it is they who are the losers.” (63:9)
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) encouraged people to have more children so that the earth would be filled by people who glorify God and praise him day and night. Also, it is narrated from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) that “I would be proud of the number of my companions on the day of resurrection” .
Reading the above verses and narration may encourage anyone to step forward to have too many children. But is that correct to do so? Are there any prohibitions against having children?
Although many narrations encourage people to have more children, there is no obligation in doing so. Instead, it is recommended to have many children, provided that it does no physical, mental or spiritual harm to parents or children. In narrations, it is recommended to have enough children, not as many as possible .
We should also keep in mind this phrase from the Holy Quran “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity” (2:286). This means that the number of children should be as many as they do not cause any harm to parents, while at the same time parents would provide all their juridical, legal, spiritual, cultural and educative rights.
Having mentioned the above overall issues about family planning, let’s see when it is specifically allowed to avoid having children.
In Islamic jurisprudence, it is allowed to avoid having children if:
The husband may decide not to have any children if:
The woman is old.
The woman would not breastfeed the baby.
The woman is not able to nurture a good child.
The woman is in temporary marriage.
The woman is indecent.
It is physically harmful to the woman to give birth.
But if a woman has none of the above issues, and the man does not wish to have children from her, for any other reasons, then he should refer to his source of emulation (Marja’ taqlid), since different Muslim jurists have different opinions on this matter. The agreement of both parties upon having or not having children can solve the problem.
But if they do not agree, the woman has the right to request for a divorce, hoping to marry another man with whom she can have children, keeping in mind that divorce is the most hateful allowed (Halal) act in the eyes of God Almighty .
But if the husband wants children, and the wife does not want to have one, without having any specific physical problems, then either both couples should come to an agreement on this subject of having or not having children, for a specific amount of time or forever, or the woman should permit the man to have children with another woman (through temporary or permanent marriage) .
However, it should be noticed that if the woman does not obey her husband in this case or any other circumstances, she has committed a forbidden (Haram) act, since it is obligatory for a woman to obey her husband. And if they do not come to an agreement and the man wants to have children, they may go through a divorce. (Again keeping in mind that divorce is the most hateful allowed (Halal) act in the eyes of God Almighty) .
In conclusion, although it is recommended to have many children, family planning in Islam, considering the situation of parents in different times and places, is a rational act and is allowed.
Also, couples should not avoid having children for fear of their aliment. Since God has guaranteed the aliment of every single creature on earth; rather they should improve their spiritual level so that they can be great parents and capable of nurturing good children who are to become great believers and good servants of the religion of God.
- Jami’ al-ahadith, vol. 20, p. 58
- Bihar al-anvar, vol. 72, p. 58
- Sayed Ali Khamenei, Istifta